How to Steep Tea

by admin on September 17, 2011

When learning how to steep tea, you’ll find that there are three important measurements in brewing a great cup of tea:

  1. Amount of Tea Leaf
  2. Water Temperature
  3. Steeping Time

Firstly, you must calculate how much tea leaf is needed for the amount of tea that you would like to brew.  The water temperature should also be just right for the type of tea that you are steeping.  And lastly, steeping the leaves for too long or not long enough can ruin an otherwise promising cup of tea.

Step 1: Measure the Correct Amount of Tea Leaf 

For a 6 ounce cup of tea, you will usually need about 2-3 grams of tea leaves.  This is a rough measurement though and the amount of leaves needed varies with each tea variety.

It’s easiest to measure your tea leaves with a small kitchen scale if you have it.  Calculating the amount by weight is most effective because tea leaves vary greatly in size.  If you calculate by volume with a teaspoon, the measurements will vary much more than they do by weight.

Here’s the general rule of thumb for measuring tea leaves by volume:

  • 1-2 teaspoons for small leaves
  • 2-3 teaspoons for medium-sized leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons for larger leafed teas

Multiply these measurements by the number of cups you desire.  If you’re brewing a pot of tea, remember to add one extra measurement of tea leaves “for the pot” to brew an undiluted batch of tea.

If you are using tea bags instead of a loose leaf tea, you’ll need about 1 tea bag for every 2 cups of water plus an extra bag for the pot.

Step 2: Calculate the Proper Water Temperature

Put your tea kettle on the stove but don’t necessarily set it and forget it.  Disregarding water temperature is a common brewing mistake.  The more delicate teas such as green, white, some oolongs, and a few special black teas (like a first-flushDarjeeling) all require a lower water temperature.  The sturdier black, pu-erh, and oolong teas all require a higher water temperature to extract the flavor during the infusion.

When you purchase a tea, the amount of tea leaf needed for one cup as well as the correct water temperature should be labeled on the packaging.  If you can’t find this information, ask the shop’s staff.

Here are the general guidelines for proper water temperature:

  • The strong teas (black, pu-erh, oolong, and herbal teas) require a higher water temperature.  Allow the water to come to a full rolling boil.
  • The more delicate green and white teas should be steeped with cooler water.  Remove the kettle from heat when bubbles first begin to form.  If the water has already come to a full boil, then let it cool for a minute before pouring it over the tea leaves or bag.

Step 3: Steep the Tea

Steeping times vary for the different kinds of tea but generally, the darker the tea, the longer the steeping time:

  • White and green tea should steep for approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Oolong for 3-4 minutes.
  • Black and pu-erh teas for 3-5 minutes.

Pour the boiling water over-top of the tea leaves and cover the teapot so that they leaves expand and release their flavor at an even pace.  Stir the brew once while steeping and remove the leaves from the tea when the time is up to prevent over-steeping.


For more detailed tips about how to steep tea, read our page on Tea Brewing Tips.

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